BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
When metal or composite parts and components on Beale need to be tested, repaired or created from scratch the 9th Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight provides these vital capabilities and keeps the reconnaissance mission moving forward.
The three pronged unit is comprised of the sheet metal, metals tech and non-destructive inspection (NDI) shops. Their specialties combine to provide full service support to units and mission sets ranging from communications to flying operations.
“We directly support the RQ-4 Global Hawk, U-2 Dragon Lady and T-38 Talon missions here at Beale,” said Tech. Sgt. Jason Meier, 9th MXS aircraft structural maintenance supervisor. “We respond to any flight line maintenance request that the aircraft maintenance units have.”
Meier who is part of the sheet metal shop that is vital to the missions of all three aircraft and helps keep them in the air. The production and repair of body panels on these aircraft is a primary focus of the shop.
“When there are any parts coming off of aircraft that need structural repair, paint refurbishment or corrosion control, we can do it here in house,” said Meier. “We can handle anything on the aircraft structure including things like aluminum repair of brackets and aluminum repair of skins for air worthiness.”
Metals tech delivers a machining expertise that aligns with sheet metal but provides another dimension for customers. With a wide range of equipment at their disposal they can produce custom metal products that are machined within one-third of a millimeter thickness. This guarantees optimal and consistent performance of the aircraft parts.
“We deal with the repair of parts that have already been manufactured by companies, and then we will modify those, either with the assistance from the engineers or by drafting up modifications with technical data,” said Jacob Schargus, 9th MXS aircraft technology work lead. “In rare cases where the part doesn’t exist, with permission from engineering we will create the part from scratch.”
The NDI team brings all three shops together by working on projects that directly involve the other two shops. They provide diagnostic testing of primarily aircraft parts and ensuring they are safe and service ready for the 9th Reconnaissance Wing flying units.
“Diagnostic testing is what we do in NDI. It is a universal trade and our processes allow us to perform it on many different airframes,” said Senior Airman Uriah Cleek, 9th MXS NDI technician. “We can analyze and inspect metal and composite aircraft parts as well as parts from supporting units using different equipment and processes to find defects.”
The three shops combined mission can be seen on a daily basis and that integration is key to safely completing the mission.
“We work hand in hand. If there is crack on the intake of an aircraft, sheet metal would have to remove the paneling, then NDI would analyze the crack,” said Schargus. “At that point we can repair it and it goes back to NDI and they check for any impurities. They would then send it back to sheet metal to be painted and back into service. So one job requires all three shops to work together we are always really tight knit in fabrication because of this.”